How Healthy Living Affects MS

You’ve likely heard the expression, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” And for patients who are living with multiple sclerosis (MS), that expression may have some truth to it. New research has emerged that shows that a diet full of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains—and with few added sugars and processed and red meats—is associated with a reduced risk of disability in patients with MS.

But the benefits go beyond reduced disability risk, especially for those with a healthy lifestyle. For this research, a healthy lifestyle is defined as a healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining a normal weight, and avoiding smoking.

Understanding MS

MS is characterized by the body’s immune system attacking myelin, the fatty substance that coats nerve cells, and the nerve cells themselves. The damage that is done can result in numbness, fatigue, tingling, dizziness, blurred vision, and walking problems.

MS and Diet

Researchers aren’t sure exactly how a healthy diet can help patients with MS, but it may be because healthy diets typically help to reduce inflammation. Since MS creates inflammation, it’s logical that a diet that reduces it will improve symptoms. Additionally, losing weight as a result of eating right can reduce pressure on joints.

MS and Exercise

In most cases, it is safe for MS patients to exercise—although the doctor should be consulted first. If tolerated, exercise can help to maintain muscle strength, allowing for a quicker recovery if a relapse occurs. Patients should aim for aerobic exercise three to four times a week and find a physical activity that they enjoy, if their doctor approves exercise.

While there is still research needed to determine how lifestyle factors improve MS, there are associations there that are worth exploring.

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